By Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche
I want to mention how Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo highly praised the importance of practising Lama Chöpa, or Guru Puja. It might be good to write this down and keep it at the beginning of your Guru Puja text as a reminder of the importance of the practice.
The great enlightened being, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, said:
If you are able to do the practise of Guru Puja in your daily life, it contains all the important points of sutra and tantra. It is a complete practice, and it shows the palm (which means the heart) of the instruction of the ear-lineage of Ganden.
Ganden refers to the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition. There are two terms: Gelug, which means the virtuous tradition, and Ganden, which means the joyful one. Lama Tsongkhapa's monastery, Ganden, was established before the other major monasteries of Lama Tsongkhapa.
I think it means that Manjushri manifested in the form of a teaching, or text. Lama Tsongkhapa received sutra and tantra teachings from Manjushri in the manner of a disciple receiving teachings directly from their guru. It didn't happen as some kind of vision or dream. Lama Tsongkhapa met and directly received teachings from Manjushri. This was definite, not like some kind of vision that you're not sure you can really trust.
I think shows the palm is expressing that this is a key secret instruction that gives enlightenment in the very brief lifetime of a degenerate time. The expression also means that it shows it very clearly. tradition, Sera and Drepung. Ganden means having joy or joyful one. I don't know how others translate Ganden, but ga means joy and den means having, so having joy or joyful one. Nyen gyu means the ear-lineage. It can be translated as whispered lineage, but nyen means ear and gyu means lineage, so ear-lineage. The translation could read, "It shows the palm of instruction of the text of manifestations of the ear-lineage of the Joyful One." I think it should be translated that way.
The lineage of mahamudra of Drubchen Chökyi Dorje...
Drubchen Chökyi Dorje [the mahasiddha Dharmavajra] was a disciple of a disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa. Chökyi Dorje was a Tibetan lama who, like Milarepa, achieved full enlightenment in the brief lifetime of the degenerate time by practising tantra on the basis of lam-rim. I think His Holiness the Dalai Lama also explained this in the mahamudra teaching during the first Enlightened Experience Celebration.1 I don't remember whether we or some other people requested a tantric mahamudra commentary. There was a lam-rim commentary before it, I think. Alex Berzin translated the teachings, as those who were at the first EEC in Dharamsala will remember. At that time His Holiness explained that Drubchen Chökyi Dorje, this great yogi, this great enlightened being, is still living on Mount Everest, or Chumolhamo, in Tibetan.
There is also Gyalwa Ensapa. His Holiness Song Rinpoche used to mention quite often that Gyalwa Ensapa achieved enlightenment in the brief lifetime of the degenerate time very comfortably, eating delicious food. His Holiness Song Rinpoche used to say Gyalwa EnsapaGuru Puja involves integration of three deities: Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka and Chakrasamvara. Generally, in the Lama TsongkhapaGuru Puja: "manifesting in various forms to whomever it subdues."2 achieved enlightenment in comfort, without having to bear hardships as Milarepa did. His Holiness Song Rinpoche said that this happened because tradition one practises tantra by integrating these three deities. One way to do this is by doing the sadhanas of the three deities each day. The general reason for practising these three deities is in order to benefit sentient beings. In order to liberate sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and its cause and bring them to full enlightenment, you need to achieve the two kayas: the dharmakaya and the rupakaya. Once you have achieved the dharmakaya, while you are in that state, you then manifest in the rupakaya, as we recite in the second verse of the prayer of prostration from the seven-limb practice in the Achieving the two kayas, unification of the holy body and holy mind, depends on achieving the direct cause of that, the unification of no more learning. In order to achieve the unification of no more learning, the unification of the holy body and holy mind, you need to achieve the direct cause of that, the unification of learning, which involves the unification of the clear light and illusory body. In order to achieve the unification of those two, you first need to separately achieve the clear light, which is the direct cause to achieve dharmakaya, and the illusory body, which is the direct cause of rupakaya. You need to achieve those two separately. It is the Chakrasamvara teaching that gives detailed techniques for achieving the clear light. One has to practise mother tantra, which emphasizes clear light, and that practice is Chakrasamvara.
The tantric teaching that emphasizes the means to achieve the illusory body is father tantra, specifically the Guhyasamaja teaching. The Guhyasamaja teaching, particularly Lama Tsongkhapa's commentary on Guhyasamaja practice, shows clearly and in detail how to achieve the illusory body. Such a clear explanation didn't exist before Lama Tsongkhapa. Of course, there have been many Tibetans who achieved enlightenment in other traditions, but as far as commentaries go, there hadn't been such a clear explanation of the techniques before Lama Tsongkhapa. Anyway, this is why you need to practise Guhyasamaja.
Then, of course, for the success of those two practices, you need to practice Yamantaka, the wrathful aspect of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom. While Manjushri is a peaceful aspect, Yamantaka is extremely wrathful. It's a most powerful deity in eliminating obstacles. By doing the practice of Yamantaka, you are able to eliminate obstacles and succeed in the other two practices. Of course, by practising Yamantaka you are also able to develop wisdom, because Yamantaka is a manifestation of Manjushri. It fulfills these two purposes. So, that's why you need to practise these three deities.
Doing the sadhanas of the three deities each day is related more to the generation stage, I think. There is then a way of integrating the practice of the three deities according to the graduated completion stage. You practise Yamantaka to dispel obstacles. Practising the Six Yogas of Naropa, for example, is part of the Chakrasamvara practice. And there are Guhyasamaja completion stage techniques to open the heart chakra. The final instructions on how to release the knots at the heart chakra and open the heart chakra are from Guhyasamaja, I think. I don't remember exactly, but it is something like that.
One reason that Lama Chöpa is so special is that it integrates these three practices. You begin by generating yourself as Yamantaka. The second merit field is from the Guhyasamaja body mandala. You visualize the different parts of the guru's holy body as all the deities of the Guhyasamaja body mandala. The Chakrasamvara practice then comes in the section of offering. Visualizing extensive offerings, with the sixteen goddesses carrying the various offerings, is part of the Chakrasamvara practice.
Geshe Senge Rinpoche advised that another way of integrating practice of the three deities is by reciting the mantras of the three deities after the guru enters your heart-by meditating on being oneness with them, I guess.
From Geshe Senge Rinpoche, a great yogi of Most Secret Hayagriva, I received almost all the oral transmissions of the teachings of Most Secret Hayagriva of a past incarnation of Kalka Damtsig Dorje, a great yogi of Most Secret Hayagriva. I received the oral transmission of the three volumes that have the entire practice of Most Secret Hayagriva, as well as two volumes on that practice by the Fifth Dalai Lama. I received them in Dharamsala over about three months, along with some incarnate lamas in the lineage of that practice. Keutsang Rinpoche, who in his past life was a great practitioner in the lineage of Most Secret Hayagriva, was there, as well as Jhado Rinpoche and PariRinpoche, another incarnate lama, who came from Tibet quite some time ago. Bakula Rinpoche was also there from time to time when initiations were given. Lama Gyüpa, the old lama who takes care of the altars at Tushita and Geshe Tsering, Lama's relative, were also there.
When we generate special bodhicitta to practise tantra at the beginning of Guru Puja, there is the expression nyur war nyur wa, in Tibetan, which means "quicker and quicker." In the general definition, the first quicker means quicker than Mahayana sutra, where you have to collect merit for three countless great eons. In tantra you don't need to do that. Since you can achieve enlightenment within one life it is quicker. Of course the lower tantras are quicker to achieve enlightenment than sutra, but Highest Yoga Tantra is even quicker than the lower tantras. This is the meaning of the second quicker. Not only can you achieve enlightenment in one lifetime, but you can achieve enlightenment in the brief lifetime of a degenerate time, when life is very short.
Geshe Senge used to say that when we do Guru Puja we should also recite the mantras of the three deities. That practice is also the integration of the three deities. After the guru has entered
your heart, with that meditation you then recite the mantras of the three deities.
The reason His Holiness Song Rinpoche used to say that Gyalwa Ensapa, unlike Milarepa, achieved enlightenment very easily and comfortably, by eating delicious food and so forth and without bearing much hardship, is because of this special practice in the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition of doing Highest Yoga Tantra practice by integrating these three deities.
Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says:
The great accomplished yogi Chökyi Dorje, Gyalwa Ensapa and so forth did this Guru Puja as their heart practice. Why are those two names mentioned? Because they are examples of practitioners who, like Milarepa, achieved enlightenment in the brief lifetime of a degenerate time. And so forth refers to the others who practised Guru Puja as their heart practice.
Having done this as their heart practice, the great accomplished yogi Chökyi Dorje, Gyalwa Ensapa and so forth found the state of unification in that life. All the previous holy beings [which means the lineage lamas] did this as their heart practice. Even though the words are few, this practice contains great meaning and brings great blessing. It has found the great vital points.
This means it has profound importance.
There is a text in which many different people--incarnate lamas, practitioner nuns and sometimes people from other traditions, such as Nyingma ngagpas--ask Pabongka questions by letter and Pabongka then replies to them. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo usually emphasizes that even if one can't do much else in daily life, Guru Puja is the essential practice. I guess you begin the day with Guru Puja and then on top of that do the sadhanas of Yamantaka, Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara and so forth. Because Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo himself was a great yogi of Chakrasamvara, he quite often emphasized Chakrasamvara practice.
You should do the daily practice of Guru Puja, even if you can't do the sadhanas of many other deities, such as Chakrasamvara.
This practice of Guru Puja is very profound, with many extra benefits, and is very quick to bring enlightenment. The lam-rim prayer, the prayer of the steps of the path to enlightenment, in Guru Puja has lam-rim and also lojong, or thought transformation. Generally, the whole of the lam-rim, from guru devotion up to enlightenment, is thought transformation. If your mind is not transformed into the path, how can you have realizations of the path? There's no way, without transforming your mind. All the lam-rim realizations--guru devotion, perfect human rebirth (its usefulness and the difficulty of finding it again), impermanence and death and so forth--are lojong, thought transformation. When you say "general lojong" it covers everything, but when you say "lam-rim lojong" it specifically covers the part of bodhicitta, such as the paths of integrating the lifetime practice into the five powers and the five powers to be practised near the time of death. The lam-rim prayer in Guru Puja has lam-rim, thought transformation and, after the six perfections, the generation and completion stages of tantra. There are verses that show those paths.
The lam-rim prayer also contains powa. Many lamas do powa with Guru Puja. They do the whole Guru Puja, then when they come to the verse on powa,3 they do the "hic!" to shoot the consciousness of the person who has died to a pure land. They visualize Amitabha Buddha, Vajrayogini or another buddha on that person's crown, then shoot their consciousness to a pure land.
The second incarnation of Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, the author of Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, also does powa with Lama Chöpa. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo passed away a long time ago in Tibet, then reincarnated, escaped from Tibet and studied at Buxa in India, where I lived for eight years. He became a geshe then soon afterwards showed the aspect of cancer and passed away in a place called Kashang, near Darjeeling. That incarnation was just about to spread Dharma, having completed his study in the monastery and received all the lineages of the sutra and tantra teachings from His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, who had received them from the previous Pabongka. He was just about to spread Dharma in the world like a flower opening or like the sun rising, but due to the lack of karma of sentient beings he took the aspect of cancer and passed away. There is now another incarnation, and we became close friends quite some time ago.
One time when we were talking about powa, Pabongka Rinpoche said that when somebody has died he just does Lama Chöpa. After the verse on the completion stage, with the clear light and illusory body, there's a verse on powa. Of course, if you have achieved the clear light of the completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra, you don't need to worry about powa; you have overcome death and achieved the inner pure land. Such a practitioner can achieve enlightenment in the very brief lifetime of this degenerate time. However, if you didn't manage to actualize the completion stage realizations of clear light and illusory body, when you die you then do powa and try to achieve the outer khachö, the Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini pure land. If you are able to be reborn there, you will definitely become enlightened in that life. So, it's kind of the most profitable pure land. It's not so certain with Amitabha Buddha's pure land. When I asked my root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, a question about this, Rinpoche said, "Yes, you can practise tantra there and achieve enlightenment." But Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and some other lamas, including maybe Denma Lochö Rinpoche, don't accept that. They say that you have to reincarnate back in our world, this southern continent, then practice tantra here and achieve enlightenment.
That is the reason that verse on powa comes after the verse on the completion stage. The lam-rim prayer in Guru Puja contains all the profound, vital points of the complete path of sutra and tantra.
Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo also mentions that when we do this practice we should think of the meaning of the words and meditate, not just recite the words blah, blah, blah, like an express train. As much as possible we should reflect on the profound meanings. Doing this definitely leaves an extraordinary imprint of the complete pure path to enlightenment. In this way it makes it definite that we will achieve the very essence of life, which means that we will definitely achieve the essence of the happiness beyond this life up to enlightenment, and especially enlightenment.
Doing the main practice of this Guru Puja is like hitting a target. When you shoot an arrow or gun or drop a bomb, your aim is to hit right on the target, your enemy or whatever you want to destroy. In the same way this practice hits the right point in an effective way. So, you should attempt to integrate everything in this way. As Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says, "One hundred waters are contained in Guru Puja." He probably means that just as all the many streams from the snow mountains and other places go into the ocean, all the important practices of sutra and tantra are condensed here in Guru Puja. If you do this practice every day, you don't miss anything.
Since this is the very heart of the scriptures of the manifestation of the Joyful One, the blessing is unequaled by any other practice. So, it has great importance.
On the basis of this, you then meditate on lam-rim and the tantric path of the main deity that you are practising. This also contains all the important preliminary practices, the main one of which is guru devotion. Guru devotion is the root that enables you to receive blessings, the cause to achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment.
1. Published by Snow Lion in The Gelug/Kagyü Tradition of Mahamudra.
2. You are the wisdom-knowledge of all infinite conquerors
Appearing in any way that subdues.
With supreme skillful means, you manifest as a saffron-robed monk.
Holy refuge savior, I prostrate at your feet. (v.19.)
3. Should I not have completed the points of the path at the time of death,
I seek your blessings that I may be led to a pure land
Either through the instructions of applying the five forces
Or by the forceful means to enlightenment, the guru's transference of mind. (v.112.)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Land of Medicine Buddha, California, in 2001. It has been excerpted from Teachings at the Medicine Buddha Retreat, edited by Ailsa Cameron, forthcoming from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, September 2009.